Tablet or 2-in-1? That’s the question often facing portable computer purchasers. Perhaps the balance has been tipped little in favour of the former lately, since I’ve noticed airlines starting to require computers with attached keyboards to be put away at landing and take-off.
But when it comes to actual typing, the 2-in-1 works like a real computer, and remains a very attractive option. And the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 turns out to be a very attractive option amongst them.
This model is labelled 8th Gen, which of course refers to the Core processor generation. The review unit came equipped with a 512GB SSD, 16GB of memory, an Intel Core i7-8550U processor and Windows 10 Home and the Dell Active Pen (model number PN338M) included. That puts it at $1999. That’s top of the line specification for this model, barring only a hundred dollar premium to get Windows 10 Pro instead. There simply aren’t many notebook computers, outside of gaming models, with as fine a hardware specification as this one at this kind of price.
But there are two steps of lower cost available as well. Stepping down to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD brings it down to $1698.99. Dropping the Active Pen and going down to the i5-8250U processor brings the price down to $1399. Those prices include delivery.
With the 8th generation processors, there are more cores. Both the i5 and i7 processors run four cores and 8 threads, like a previous generation desktop i7. The i7-8550U runs at 1.8GHz, the i5 at 1.6GHz. In case you’re wondering, user benchmarks suggest a performance boost of something like two per cent in the i7 over the i5. There isn’t likely to be a major performance difference between the two.
The display is full HD, LED backlit and IPS for a wide viewing angle, and is of course touch sensitive. The graphics is handled by the on-chip Intel UHD Graphics 620.
The computer weighs 1.62 kilograms. It’s no lightweight, but not too much of a drag either.
The keyboard is standard sized, using chiclet keys with a moderate travel and a fairly light touch. It was fine for typing, and even when pounding hard it remained unflexing, generating confidence. The keys aren’t backlit, which may be a problem for those who have to work a lot in poor light. The function keys require the use of the “Fn” modifier key to operate, defaulting to things like media and screen control. Home, End, Page Up and Page Down are the “Fn” modified arrow keys.
The touchpad is only lightly textured and very responsive. Pinching and stretching with two fingers worked well. Swiping up with three fingers brought up desktop options, down exposed the desktop, left and right jumped from app to app. Because it was a decent size – 106mm wide by 67mm tall – there was rarely the feeling of running out of space when dragging things around.
But of course if you do want to do heavy duty dragging, using the touch sensitive screen is often the best way to go. This was just as responsive as my Microsoft Surface Pro 4, which is to say very responsive and effective. Both fingers and pen felt good on the screen, smooth.
With the latest version of Windows 10, Microsoft has changed the handwriting entry system somewhat, so that it converts to text within the handwriting box almost straight after you’ve written, and corrections are done by a simple horizontal line drawn through words. It is far more effective than the old system, so perhaps the ease of use I found with the Dell pen is as much to do with that. Whatever, it all clearly worked well. The palm rejection was effective so I could rest my hand while drawing and writing.
It has dual band WiFi to 802.11ac with 2×2 MIMO. There is Bluetooth – version 4.2. Ports are a little old fashioned, with 2 USB 3.1 (one of these can be used for charging) and 1 USB 2.0. I really want to see USB Type-C take over, but that isn’t happening with this computer. It is also fitted with a HDMI 1.4 output. This proved perfectly capable of driving an external UltraHD – 3840 by 2160 pixel – external monitor.
There’s also an analogue headphone/microphone port and a slot for SD cards, always useful for transferring photos from digital cameras.